AT 1700 ON 8 JUNE, warning orders were issued by V Corps; the second phase of the beachhead operations was to begin the next day. The delay of two days in reaching the initial objectives gave urgency to the situation. German resistance was weakening, but reinforcements could change the whole picture. The beachhead was still far short of its desired depth, and the landing area could still be reached by enemy artillery fire from the Trevieres positions. V Corps had reckoned with enemy capabilities of attack by three divisions, including armor, by evening of 8 June. So far previsions of counterattack had not been realized, a tribute to the effective work of the Allied air forces on enemy communications. However, V Corps intelligence noted enemy troop movements 70 miles south of the battle front, and the 12th SS Panzer and the SS Hitler Jugend Divisions were believed moving from the east, with possibility of reaching the battle front on 9 June. In the corps zone, Cerisy Forest was suspected of being an area of assembly for enemy forces, including armor. The 30th Mobile Brigade, which had just begun to make an appearance in the fighting, represented the last known local reserves at the enemy's disposal.
There was, of course, no assurance that reinforcements coming from a distance would be used against V Corps, for the Germans had a much wider front to consider in committing their available strength (Map No. XVI). To the east, British Second Army was six to eight miles inland on a considerable front, had crossed the Caen-Bayeux highway, and was within two miles of Caen. That city was of vital importance to the enemy, and north of it the Germans were offering strong resistance based on the 21st Panzer Division, with evidence of other armored reinforcement coming up. To the west, VII Corps was still fighting to consolidate the assigned beachhead area, was short of its original objectives, and was opposed by elements of at least three divisions. Carentan was still in enemy hands.
Although build-up had been affected by the delay in all landing schedules during the first days, V Corps disposed of considerable increase in strength for attack beyond D-Day objectives. Four battalions of 155-mm howitzers (corps artillery) were getting ashore on 8 June. The 2d Division, originally due by D+2, was estimated far enough along in landing to be operational by the next day. The 9th Infantry had landed the evening of 7 June, and used two battalions on 8 June in clearing out snipers behind the beach between St-Laurent and Vierville. The 38th Infantry had two battalions ashore by evening of the 8th, and the 23d had started landing. Two batteries of divisional artillery were arriving. Behind the 2d Division, the 2d Armored was ready to bring in its first elements on 9 June.
In V Corps Field Order No. 2, issued at 2115 on 8 June, General Gerow directed an attack at noon the next day by three divisions abreast (Map No. XIV). The 2d Division, taking over a 5,000-yard front
north of Trevieres, was to capture the key high ground at Cerisy Forest. The 1st Division was to put its main effort on the right, thus assisting the 2d Division, and to protect the east flank of V Corps along the Drome River. The 1st Division's objectives lay along the high ground west of the Drome River between Cerisy Forest and the Army boundary. On the right wing, covering the drive south to Cerisy Forest, the 29th Division would cross the Aure and reach the edge of the Elle River valley; at the same time, it was to capture Isigny and establish contact with VII Corps toward Carentan. Enemy counterattack was still regarded as highly possible, and each attacking division was ordered to be ready for defense of D-Day positions in its sector with one to three battalions (one in the 2d Division sector), these units to remain in DDay positions until relieved by Corps order.
This attack plan was designed to continue forward movements already under way, with a minimum of delay. In two cases, verbal
orders of the Corps Commander had anticipated Field Order No. 2; the 29th Division had been ordered to cross the Aure on the night of 8-9 June, and the 1st Division to seize high ground southwest of Tour-enBessin as a preliminary to the jump-of on 9 June. There was thus no sharp dividing line, in time, between the completion of the operation toward D-Day objectives and the start of the new phase.
After receiving warning orders at 1700 on 8 June, the 1st Division units had a considerable task of preparation in order to attack at noon next day. They were somewhat short of the assigned line of departure: Moulagny-Courtelay-Grivilly-Cussy. On the afternoon of the 8th, the 2d Battalion received orders to occupy high ground a mile southwest of Mosles, in what would be the assembly area for the 18th Infantry. The battalion met determined resistance near Moulagny and dug in for the night a little north of its objective. The other battalions of the 18th had to wait for relief by the 2d Division. This took place on the morning of the 9th, delayed by the fact that the 3d Battalion was engaged in a fire fight at the time of relief; furthermore, both 1st and 3d Battalions then had to cover some distance to reach their assembly area. As for the 26th Infantry, D-Day objectives were just being reached on the morning of 9 June; the 3d Battalion had been in a severe action with the enemy at Ste-Anne early that day, while the 1st Battalion was still slowed by light enemy resistance north of Tour-en-Bessin during the morning. As a result, the jump-off on the 1st Division front was delayed one to two hours. By Field Order No. 36, the 1st Division planned its attack with two regiments abreast. The 18th RCT, with Company C, 745th Tank Battalion, Battery A of the 62d Armored Field Artillery Battalion, and Company B, 635th Tank Destroyer Battalion, attached, and the 32d Field Artillery Battalion in direct support, was to advance on a front of about 4,000 yards, with Vaubadon and la Commune as objectives, on the Bayeux-St-Lo highway The 26th RCT, with equivalent attachments and the 33d Field Artillery Battalion in direct support, was aimed at Dodigny and Agy, on the same highway. Two battalions of the 16th, with the 7th Field Artillery Battalion in direct support, had the mission of clearing enemy resistance up to the Army boundary from Porten-Bessin to Vaucelles, maintaining contacts with the British on that flank, and organizing defensive positions in the Tour-en-Bessin area. The 2d Battalion of the 16th was held in division reserve. Four battalions of artillery (three of them 155-mm howitzers or guns) were in general support, two of them reinforcing the fires of the 32d and 33d Battalions.
Due to make the main effort with Cerisy Forest as its objective, the 2d Division was hampered by lack of weapons and equipment as the hour of jump-off approached. The 9th and 38th Infantry, scheduled to attack abreast in the Trevieres area, had no transportation by the morning of 9 June and most of the battalions lacked heavier automatic weapons, mortars, and communications equipment. Only two battalions (15th and 38th) of the divisional artillery were ready and in position: medical, signal, engineer, and reconnaissance units were only partially ashore. The 23d Infantry, designated as division reserve, had just landed the evening before and was assembling near St-Laurent by noon. Attachments to the 2d Division for the attack included a company each from the 747th Tank Battalion and the 635th Tank Destroyer Battalion.
Delayed in starting, the attack made slow progress during the afternoon of 9 June;
then gathered momentum as it was pressed during the short night (twilight lasted until 2300). The enemy at first offered stubborn resistance from a number of organized positions, but these were widely separated, not held in strength, and given only weak artillery support. Once they were bypassed or overwhelmed, little further opposition was encountered. Enemy weakness was indicated by identification of the replacement battalion of the 915th Regiment, the reserve battalion of the 916th, and the reconnaissance battalion of the 352d Division, as well as remnants of the 517th Mobile Battalion. Evidently, with no fresh troops at hand, the Germans were throwing in their last resources in a fashion that spelled disorganization.
Along the front of four regiments, advance was progressively slower from the left to the right flank. By the end of the afternoon, resistance began to fold in front of the 26th Infantry, attacking with the 2d and 3d Battalions abreast. At 2140 the 3d Battalion had reached its objective, Agy; the 2d got to Dodigny at 0150. The 18th Infantry was held up by a strongpoint near the line of departure; this had to be bypassed and cleaned up by the reserve battalion (2d), which took 30 prisoners and counted 20 enemy dead. By 2100 the 1st and 3d Battalions of the 18th were two miles behind the 26th Infantry units on their left, and Corps gave permission for the 16th RCT to move from reserve to a position where it could guard the open flank and help the 18th Infantry if necessary. The 18th, however, made better progress as night fell, and kept on pressing against diminishing opposition. By daylight it was abreast of the 26th. Its objectives on the St-Lo-Bayeux highway were reached at 1000 and 1600 on 10 June. The 3d Battalion, on the edge of Cerisy Forest, met signs of increased resistance near its objectives. In an advance of 6 miles, losses had been slight; the 18th Infantry reported 50 casualties for 9 June. Enemy prisoners stressed the effectiveness of artillery support given the advance; fires had been concentrated on strongpoints, assembly areas, and road movements. The 7th, 32d, and 33d Field Artillery Battalions fired 22 missions on 9 June for a total of 976 rounds. The batteries of the 62d Armored Field Artillery Battalion (self-propelled 105-mm howitzers) had been divided between the 1st Division regiments, to be used for direct fire in close support against enemy strong-points. As a result of the character of the opposition, however, these batteries were not needed. The three artillery battalions used in general support still found observation a problem and delivered for the most part unobserved fires. Naval fire, using 6 inch guns of the cruisers, was again very helpful, one of the targets being a battery south of the 26th Infantry's objective. According to enemy prisoners, many field pieces of the 352d Division's artillery had been destroyed and all their gun positions had been abandoned. Enemy artillery action on the corps front was limited to occasional fire by single guns.
The 2d Division, led by Maj. Gen. Walter M. Robertson, went into its first action of the war under serious handicaps. Its initial objective was Trevieres, a key position if the enemy planned to hold along his present line. While the 38th Infantry attacked from the north and west, the 9th Infantry would outflank Trevieres by seizing Rubercy, to the southeast.
The 9th Infantry had relieved the 18th at Engranville and Mandeville that morning and had planned an attack by the 2d and 3d Battalions abreast, 2d to the west. The attack order did not reach the 2d Battalion at Engranville until 1100, and that unit was far short of its line of departure, the Trevieres-Mandeville road. When the battalion
crossed the Aure, it came under heavy flanking fire of automatic weapons from the strong German defenses east of Trevieres. Supporting tanks, held up by the steep banks of the Aure, were unable to get into position to help, and the 2d Battalion immediately felt the lack of its mortars and machine guns. The right wing of the advance was pinned down for most of the afternoon but managed to disengage and reach the line of departure about dark. Company E had suffered 20 casualties in the fight. When the battalion was ordered to resume the attack at 2200, preliminary artillery fire was misdirected, the first rounds falling into the CP area and inflicting 17 casualties. Recovering from this incident, the battalion pushed on and reached the Rubercy-Trevieres road at midnight. Heavy weapons were now beginning to arrive, but the unit was still without communications and out of contact with the 3d Battalion on its left.
The 3d Battalion, starting its attack from the area Mandeville-Moulagny, was fortunate in having most of its heavy weapons and equipment. Companies K and L attacked abreast on the Mandeville-Rubercy road, but K lost its direction and side-slipped to the east, forcing the use of I to fill a wide gap in the front. At the village of Haut-Hameau, enemy small-arms fire stopped Company L for several hours. When four tanks came up to deal with the resistance, the Germans put in an unusually heavy concentration of artillery fire, with eight guns reported as firing from the south and southwest. A tank was knocked out; Company L lost 20 men and was disorganized. Contacts with K and I were made and a coordinated attack by Companies I and L was prepared for 1900, preceded by support fires from a 4.2-inch mortar platoon, the Cannon Company, a battery of the 15th Field Artillery Battalion, and several destroyers. When L advanced after this fire, German resistance was slight. Fifteen enemy dead were found, and two machine guns and a few prisoners taken. The battalion was near Rubercy by dark, out of contact with the 1st Division on its left. The 9th Infantry lost 10 killed and 80 wounded for the day's action.
To the west of this advance, the 38th Infantry had made slow progress against Trevieres, where the enemy resisted stubbornly from well dug-in positions. The 2d Battalion, attacking from the north, was fighting into the village by nightfall. Two machine guns and some bazookas borrowed from an engineer unit were put to use, and the heavy mortars of Company C, 81st Chemical Weapons Battalion, helped to neutralize enemy strongpoints at the edge of the village. The 3d Battalion crossed the Aure southwest of Trevieres, attempting to outflank the village on that side. During the day, the 15th and 38th Field Artillery Battalions had been called on very heavily for supporting fires, mostly against Trevieres, and had used 3,652 rounds up to midnight.
By 10 June the 2d Division had received much of its missing equipment and transportation, and the attack was renewed in greater strength. A prisoner captured on the evening before had stated that the 916th Regiment was withdrawing from the Trevieres area to the Cerisy Forest, and the lack of enemy resistance on 10 June confirmed this statement. The advances east and west of Trevieres had left the enemy there in an untenable salient. After a heavy artillery concentration fired before 0700, the village was cleared out by 0845, and the 2d Division went forward with no opposition except from isolated snipers and an occasional machine gun holding a delaying position. The result was the most extensive advance of the operation. The 9th Infantry got through Cerisy Forest after skirmishes with enemy scout cars, and bivouacked southwest of Balleroy with losses for the day of ix wounded. The 38th Infantry reached he village of Cerisy-la-Foret, and at 2100 he 1st Battalion was pushing on with orders to seize Haute-Litee at the southwest corner of the woods. Only in this area was there any sign of organized enemy opposition, offered by the Engineer Battalion, 352d Division. Prisoners for the day numbered 90, and their reports indicated considerable disintegration of enemy means of resistance: remnants of units were intermingled, supplies were lacking, and some prisoners had no knowledge of the whereabouts of their units and commanders. German artillery delivered no fires on front-line troops and engaged in no counter-battery on 10 June. Only enemy weakness could explain the fact that Cerisy Forest had been practically undefended. Possession of the area by U. S. forces denied the enemy commanding ground from which to mount counterattack against the beach-
head; furthermore, it lay athwart the best direct route between St-Lo and the German forces defending south of Bayeux.
On 11 June, the 1st and 2d Divisions organized the ground won in their rapid advance. On most parts of the front there was no contact with the enemy, and patrols which pushed several miles southward found no opposition in any force. Despite the reports on previous days of the approach of armored units, these were still not in evidence. Enemy artillery fire was almost nonexistent, being reported only twice on the 2d Division front.
The only serious fighting of the day took place on the right flank, where the 1st Battalion of the 38th Infantry was completing its attempt to secure the crossroads at Haute-Litee. This area was stoutly defended all day by Germans holding prepared positions. When the crossroads were passed at noon, the enemy still resisted in the forest fringes to south and west, holding up further advance by mortar fire. Heavy concentrations by the 38th and 12th Field Artillery Battalions neutralized the mortars and allowed the 1st Battalion to reach objectives west and south of the crossroads. The 38th
Field Artillery Battalion fired 1,015 rounds during this action. By nightfall, the 23d Infantry had moved up to join the division; its vehicles and equipment were expected to arrive in a matter of hours.
On the 1st Division front, preparations were made on the afternoon of 11 June for the corps attack the next day. Balleroy, found held by an enemy patrol in the morning, was occupied in the afternoon without resistance. The division was strengthened by the arrival of the 1st Reconnaissance Troop and the 102d Cavalry Battalion, which were immediately put into use for reconnaissance missions. During the evening, the 18th and 26th Infantry Regiments moved across the Drome to the line Planqueray-la Butte, without encountering opposition. At 2030 some alarm was caused by reports of a German counterattack with armor in the British area, headed west for the left flank and rear of the 1st Division. The report turned out to be unfounded.
British advance south and southeast of Bayeux was, however, being slowed by heavy resistance. On 10 June, the main effort, led by the 7 Armoured Division, reached the area Tilly-sur-Seulles-Lingevres and began to encounter enemy armor. On the First Army's flank, elements of the British 231 Brigade reached la Belle-Epine on the 11th and were momentarily checked there by the enemy counterattack which occasioned concern for V Corps' flank. British XXX Corps had been, so far, abreast of V Corps' advance, but there were indications that further progress might be uneven in the two zones.
V Corps Field Order No. 2, directing a general attack at noon on 9 June, included as preliminary to the attack certain movements already under way by the 29th Division. One was the capture of Isigny; the other was the crossing of the flooded part of the Aure Valley by the 115th Infantry, to be accomplished during the night of 8-9 ,June.
According to advance intelligence, the lowland between Isigny and Trevieres had been inundated to a depth of two to three feet, over a width varying from a half mile to two miles. When the Aure Valley was reached, conditions were found not as bad as had been reported, since the waters had receded. However, large patches of shallow water remained, the mud was deep everywhere, and the close network of drainage ditches between the two main streams (Esque and Aure) would hamper movement, even though the ditches were not wide. The four bridges along the causeway between la Cambe and Douet had been destroyed. Patrols were sent out on the evening of the 8th to reconnoiter for crossings, and heavy artillery and naval fire was laid on the south bank of the flood plain, particularly near Bricqueville, Colombieres, and Calette Wood. This preparatory fire included 150 rounds from destroyers' guns and 208 rounds of the 110th Field Artillery Battalion.
2d Lt. Kermit C. Miller took a combat patrol of platoon strength from Company E, 115th Infantry, crossed the valley south of Canchy after dark, and went into Colombieres. Already hit hard by artillery concentrations, the enemy force there was disorganized; the patrol took it completely by surprise, ambushed enemy reinforcements, and inflicted more than 40 casualties before withdrawing with 11 prisoners. The 3d Battalion also sent out small reconnaissance patrols of two or three men, who reported getting across at several points but were dubious about being able to guide the battalion.
About first light on 9 June, the 3d Battalion started out over the flats south from
Canchy, with the Cannon Company of the 115th as near as possible to the valley for close support. Visibility was good, and enemy opposition in any strength could easily have made the advance very costly. Halfway across, the battalion reached a stream too deep to ford, and stopped while Company A of the 121st Engineer Combat Battalion rigged 10 improvised foot bridges, using assault-raft equipment, pneumatic floats, and bridge timbers. "Weasels" (M-29)  were used to get the materials forward. These bridges got the troops over the deeper streams and ditches, but the smaller ones still caused plenty of delay, two hours being required to put the battalion across the exposed flats. Fortunately, the area was practically undefended. No artillery fire was encountered and only scattered rifle fire. The 2d Battalion followed the 3d, and both were over by 1100.
Further east, the 1st Battalion tried to find a passage across the narrower part of the Aure Valley, south of Ecrammeville, but the enemy holding the Trevieres area repulsed this effort with machine-gun and rifle fire. The 1st Battalion then marched to Canchy and followed the route taken by the rest of the regiment. Along the causeway, four short treadway bridges were started by the 254th Engineer Combat Battalion and were ready for vehicles that night.
By Field Order No. 4 of the 29th Division, initial objectives assigned to the 115th were Bricqueville, Colombieres, and the Calette Wood; these were supposed to be occupied by noon as bases for the next phase of the attack. The 1st Battalion marched to Bricqueville, repulsed a weak enemy attack with the aid of close-support fire by the regimental cannon company, and organized defensive positions. The 3d Battalion arrived at Colombieres by 1020, encountering no opposition. The battalion did not move out on the attack until 1700 and reached its next objective, la Folie, at 2300. Its position that night was to be somewhat exposed, since the enemy still held Trevieres, and on the right the 2d Battalion had met disaster.
That battalion had a hard day's work. After crossing the Aure Valley, it turned west toward Calette Wood, from which enemy harassing fire was holding up the bridging work at the causeway. En route, the battalion met considerable opposition near Vouilly, from riflemen and bicycle troops armed with machine pistols. Only scattered resistance was met at Calette Wood which had received two concentrations of fire from the division artillery. The battalion spent three hours in beating the thick brush for snipers, and cleared out the woods enough so that the bridges could be completed. About 1900 the 2d Battalion returned to Vouilly, where enemy snipers were still active, and started south for its next objective, le Carrefour, six miles south. A wrong turn took the unit off the route and added three miles to the march. It was 0230 before the exhausted troops reached their objective and began to move off the road for a brief rest.
The night was overcast and very dark, making it difficult to reconnoiter the ground for temporary defensive positions. The two leading companies were ordered to take positions to the east and west sides of a large orchard, and it was planned for Company E and Headquarters Company to complete a perimeter defense. These units were still halted on the road, waiting to move into the held, when officers standing near the rear of the column (where two quarter-ton trucks had just brought up some rations from Bricqueville) heard a slight noise of traffic about 40 yards north. They believed it was the 3d Battalion coming up. Almost immediately a column of enemy infantry,
 A full-track, light cargo carrier with 1,200 pound capacity.
with some type of armored vehicles in it, appeared around a bend in the road and a machine-pistol was fired. When U. S. troops fired a few shots in return, they heard an uproar of voices and the sound of many vehicles shifting gears. The enemy immediately swept the road with machine-gun fire and then sent armored vehicles down it, firing 88-mm guns into the hedgerows and adjacent fields. Company E scattered off the road into the fields; the companies already in the orchard were caught completely by surprise and had no chance to organize for effective defense. Most of the men had thrown themselves on the ground and had gone to sleep as they dropped; wakened by artillery and machine-gun fire at point-blank range, they were confused and stupefied. First efforts at resistance only gave away their positions to the German guns, and some groups were caught in wild rifle fire from friendly units. Heavy weapons were not in position to be used. The battalion commander was killed, control was never established, and men began to drift out of the orchard in all directions. In a short time the battalion was dispersed into scattered groups, making their way back north and west through the night. Losses were 11 officers and 139 enlisted men.
It was afterwards estimated that the 2d Battalion had been hit by a German column retreating from the Aure Valley and bent on escape to the south. By all evidence, the encounter was a surprise for the Germans as well, but circumstances favored the enemy. In march formation, with armored vehicles leading (probably about eight self-propelled 88-mm guns), they were able to use the heavy and demoralizing fire of these guns in the first, decisive minutes. The Germans suffered casualties, and two armored vehicles were knocked out by bazookas.
Fortunately, the enemy had no resources on this front to take advantage of his local success. On 10 June, the 2d Battalion was reorganized, received 110 replacements, and moved back into line in the afternoon. No enemy resistance was met, and the 115th Infantry reached its final objectives during the afternoon: the 2d Battalion near Ste-Marguerited'Elle; the 3d east of it along the river; and the 1st at Epinay-Tesson. That night, the 2d Battalion outposts were attacked by small German forces which crossed the Elle River, and skirmishing lasted all night.
To the west of the 115th, the 175th Infantry Regiment had secured the corps' flank along the Vire River. After Isigny was taken on the morning of 9 June, the regiment turned south toward the objective area, Lison-la Fotelaie, moving in column of battalions, with the 747th Tank Battalion attached. Resistance was met south of la Herennerie, where elements of the 352d Divisional Artillery, acting as infantry, were swept aside with an estimated loss of 125 killed. Forward elements of the armored units reached Lison at noon but were temporarily checked by artillery fire. Although Lison was then bombed and strafed by Allied planes, an enemy force of about company strength delayed the advance for a few hours. Both Lison and la Fotelaie were occupied by nightfall.
West of Isigny, Company K had been sent toward the bridge over the Vire River at Auville-sur-le-Vey, with orders to seize the crossing as a means for contact with VII Corps. The bridge had been burned, and the enemy held machine-gun emplacements on the other bank. On the morning of 10 June intense mortar and machine-gun fire stopped the first effort to cross the stream. Company K was reinforced by a platoon of tanks, a platoon of Company E, and the 29th Reconnaissance Squadron. At 1800, under covering fire Gf the mortars and automatic weapons of the 29th Reconnaissance
Squadron, the reinforced company forded the 40-foot stream at low tide and advanced into Auville-sur-le-Vey, which it held that night to cover bridging operations by Company C of the 254th Engineer Combat Battalion. Company K suffered about a dozen casualties in the crossing. Despite vigorous German resistance 500 yards to the west, a patrol of the 29th Reconnaissance Squadron made first contact with patrols of the 101st Airborne Division that afternoon (1500) near Catz. The 101st was still fighting toward Carentan from the north but had put small forces across the Douve Estuary east of Carentan. On 11 June, the situation on this flank was strengthened by the arrival of a battalion of armored infantry from Combat Command A of the 2d Armored Division, which took over the bridgehead west of the Vire.
The 116th Infantry, with the Ranger Force attached, engaged in moppingup operations between Grandcamp and Isigny on 9 June, overcoming final enemy opposition at Maisy and Gefosse-Fontenay; thereafter, it went into division reserve, moving south of the Aure on the afternoon of 11 June.
As on the rest of the corps front, enemy resistance in the 29th Division's one had shown less and less strength as the attack progressed. Evidences of disorganization mounted, particularly with respect to intermingling of units. Elements of the 915th Infantry were identified west of the Vire as well as on the 1st Division front; according to prisoners, the 915th and 916th Infantry
were being merged. Enemy artillery was little in evidence.
Except for harassing night raids against Allied shipping off the beachheads, German planes were still unable to intervene effectively in the battle one. All air activity was restricted by weather on 9 June. On 10-11 June, Allied air forces resumed their work of bombing airfields, cutting communications, and carrying out tactical missions against supply dumps, road junctions, and assembly areas close to the front. By 11 June, bombers o the Royal Air Force had set a new record for weight of bombs dropped in a week: 17,268 tons, of which only 1,444 tons had been directed against targets in Germany. The best testimony on the effectiveness of the Allied air action, and the major results it was beginning to achieve, comes from the complaints of high German commanders in Normandy on their situation in respect to supply, transportation, and reinforcements.
These three days, 9-11 June, marked a period of disillusionment for the German command. On 8 June, they had still been looking forward to the imminent counteroffensive which was to destroy the Allied beachheads, beginning at Caen. In the succeeding days, these hopes had to be given up, and Seventh Army concentrated on efforts to bring enough strength into Normandy to prevent further loss of vital ground. The delays in arrival of German reinforcements were a cause of increasing difficulty and anxiety (Map No. XV
On the morning of 9 June the sector south of Omaha Beach loomed into prominence for the first time at Seventh Army Headquarters. At 1035 General Marcks reported from LXXXIV Corps. Isigny had been taken by a surprise attack; tanks were reported on the Lison-St-Lo road, so that the commanding general of Seventh Army was advised not to make a trip to St-Lo as planned; Allied intentions were probably to cross the Vire and link up with the western bridgehead, and LXXXIV Corps had no available force to stop them, the 352d Division having been reduced to "small groups" and the 726th Infantry having practically disappeared. General Marcks wanted to withdraw behind the Vire and assemble II Paratroop Corps for later counter-attack, with one of its divisions (77th Infantry) to go to the Valognes area. He also asked that LXXXIV Corps be freed of responsibility for action east of the Cotentin, suggesting that II Paratroop Corps be put under I SS Panzer Corps and take over the sector east of Carentan. Army disagreed with all these proposals except that of using the 77th Division to meet the growing pressure of Allied attack toward Montebourg. Army was aware that the "hole between Isigny and Bayeux had now been widened," but still planned to assemble II Paratroop Corps at Balleroy for a counteroffensive toward Bayeux. It was beginning to doubt, however, whether this would be practicable, since the corps was so strung out on the road that its units would not arrive in fashion to permit concentration of offensive effort.
At 1730, General Marcks reported again. This time he was more reassured about the Carentan area, for the Allies showed no tendency to push beyond Isigny. The 352d Division believed it might be able to hold the attack in progress at Trevieres, but an Allied breakthrough threatened at Montebourg.
This was the background for an appearance of Field Marshal Erwin Rommel at Seventh Army Headquarters. Briefed on the situation, the Army Group Commander stressed two points. The Allies must not be allowed to get Cherbourg; and every effort must be made to prevent their linking up bridgeheads west of the Vire. He agreed with the Seventh Army viewpoint that counterattack by II Paratroop Corps had better be postponed until the corps was fully assembled and its action could be coordinated with that of
I SS Panzer Corps. Rommel expressed his conviction that this counteroffensive, when staged, would be successful. Von Rundstedt, he reported, believed the Allies were about to make a major assault on the Pas-de-Calais coast.
Following this conference, Army ordered II Paratroop Corps to change its direction of advance from Balleroy toward the Isigny area, while the 77th Division was to go to Valognes. Rommel emphasized that the problem at the moment was to prevent linking of the bridgeheads, however serious the situation at Montebourg. That evening, nevertheless, saw II Paratroop Corps still far from the threatened area, despite urgent orders to make all possible speed. The 77th Division was near Avranches; one regiment of the 3d Paratroop Division was nearing St-Lo, but the rest of the division was still in Brittany. Advance elements of the 17th SS Panzer Grenadier Division were approaching Balleroy, with main units near Avranches and Laval and location of its halftracks and heavy equipment (coming by rail) unknown. All these movements were hampered by shortage of fuel, as well as air attacks and sabotage along the line of march.
In the Caen area, I SS Panzer Corps was still unable to start its attack, and the 21st Panzer and part of the 12th SS Panzer lost some ground north and west of Caen in defensive fighting. The 346th Division had been ordered (8 June) to move to the assistance of the 711th Division east of the Orne River, with the aim of freeing elements of 21st Panzer in that sector.
General Marcks had expressed the conviction that 10 June would be the day of crisis in the battle on the approaches to Cherbourg. Rommel on that morning expressed a change of view with regard to the mission of the oncoming II Paratroop Corps; his main concern now was not so much to prevent linking of the bridgeheads as to forestall any Allied effort to cut off the Cotentin peninsula by pushing westward. Army ordered the 17th SS Panzer Grenadier Division to move to a position just southwest of Carentan, while the 3d Paratroop Division assembled on St-Lo.
At the end of the day, Seventh Army felt that things had not gone as badly as had been feared. The German units had managed to hold on at Montebourg in heavy fighting; the Allies had crossed the Vire near Isigny but were not pressing in that area. I SS Panzer Corps' attack in the Caen area still failed to materialize; Allied pressure in that sector kept the German troops on the defensive and indicated preparations for a major attack on Caen. Reinforcements were now in sight of the threatened areas. Advance elements of the 77th Division were nearing Valognes, though the rest was strung out all the way to Avranches; 3d Paratroop Division had some units at Berigny and the main body had cleared the Avranches corner, coming out of Brittany; elements of the 17th SS Panzer Grenadier Division were between Balleroy and Coutances In addition, the 2d Panzer Division (from northern France) had been ordered to Seventh Army [when the order had been issued is not stated], and its half-track elements were at Alencon.
Army Command West was making further efforts to reinforce the Normandy battle. The XXXXVII Panzer Corps Headquarters had been ordered to the Seventh Army, and the 353d Division was now ordered from Brittany to join II Paratroop Corps. A number of artillery and antiaircraft units were also on their way.
With this strength coming up, Army's appreciation of the situation showed moderate confidence. the armored divisions, once ready, would be able to wipe out the Allied lodgement in the Caen-Bayeux area; the forces in the Cotentin, though not strong enough for counterattack, would suffice to hold Cherbourg. Army indicated to Army Group its need for mobile artillery, anti-tank weapons, and antiaircraft. The overwhelming importance of having more fuel, both for operation of armored units and for faster movement of reinforcements, is stressed several times during the day's communications from Seventh Army to higher headquarters. One of the difficulties underlined by Seventh Army is that reinforcements were having so many delays that
units arrived in driblets and had to be committed piecemeal. On 10 June, the advance elements of the 17th SS Panzer Grenadier Division bogged down at St-Lo for lack of fuel, and an engineer battalion had to be rushed to the Carentan area.
The 352d Infantry Division on this day (10 June) advised Army that it was "not probable that much resistance was still being offered in the coastal defenses."
The Allied progress on 10 June in the Cerisy Forest-Balleroy area was not known to Seventh Army until the morning of the 11th. Then LXXXIV Corps reported (0530-0630) that the situation on its right flank was serious. The fighting value of the 352d Division was now very slight, and the hole between it and its right-hand neighbor (I SS Panzer Corps) was larger. The reaction at Seventh Army was that reinforcements on the way would take care of this hole in time, although Allied armored reconnaissance activity indicated their intention to exploit the gap. At the end of 11 June, Army reported that Allied forces were regrouping and that they had made no significant gains during the day, though Carentan was threatened. Army's intention was to hold the Vire-Elle line and Carentan. LXXXIV Corps had the mission of blocking the road to Cherbourg and, with II Paratroop Corps under its command, of preventing any drive to sever the Cotentin peninsula. Its right wing was to push toward Balleroy and seek contact by reconnaissance elements with I SS Panzer Corps southeast of Bayeux. By the close of the day, main elements of the 3d Paratroop Division were northeast of St-Lo; the 17th SS Panzer Grenadier Division was reaching assembly areas southwest of Carentan, ready to attack to east or north; and battle groups of the 265th and 275th Divisions were arriving westward of St-Lo. The 266th Division (battle group) was released for ultimate commitment in the St-Lo area. In the Caen area, the plan of early attack against the Allied bridgehead was finally abandoned, Army deciding that the Allied strength in that area was too great. The Panzer Lehr Division had arrived in the Tillysur-Seulles area, but Army's intention for the time being was to assume the defensive in this sector. Mobile elements, particularly tanks, were to be withdrawn as soon as possible from the battle and assembled in preparation for a later counteroffensive .
The Seventh Army War Diary for 11 June devotes much space to a lengthy review of the effects of enemy air attacks, particularly on lines of communication. By 9 June rail transport anywhere near the battle .one had been rendered impossible. Elements of the 265th and 275th Divisions coming from Brittany had been forced to unload from trains after getting only a quarter of the way to the front. The 17th SS Panzer Grenadier Division had also been forced to unload before it reached Seventh Army's rear boundary. The result put a heavy strain on motor transport, and this strain was increased by. Allied air attacks which took heavy toll of vehicles. The results showed in delays and in loss of supplies, including fuel, which in turn seriously crippled the lighting ability of the armored units as they arrived. All time schedules for arrival of reinforcements had been thrown off; movement by motor transport was possible only at night, and even marches conducted at night could be hindered by bombing of communications centers. Allied air observation also precluded movement by day near the battle front and led to attack on assembly areas, sometimes from the air. Army concluded this review with the demand that the German air forces intervene, by both day and night, to break this "unbearable" superiority of Allied air. In the meantime, Army was undertaking drastic measures to reorganize control of roads and transport in its rear areas and was trying to get Army Group to take over responsibility for a larger area in bringing up supply, so that Seventh Army's overtaxed transportation could be used only for the immediate needs of the battle zone. The fuel shortage was stressed, and Army stated the "outcome of the battle for the coast" depended on speedy supply of fuel to give arriving armored units the mobility necessary for an offensive.
page updated 1 October 2002
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